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Though sports are often referred to as an “escape from reality,” for the athletes themselves, the city of Boston offers no escape from a historically rabid racist town.
As the Boston Celtics prepare to travel to Atlanta for a potentially close-out Game 6 on April 27 against the Hawks, Beantown ballers often have to worry about more than just the game.
Celtic players know many of their team fans are racist
In 2020, Celtics guard Marcus Smart told Andscape about an interaction with a Boston fan wearing an Isaiah Thomas jersey. Smart was driving near TD Garden, the Celtics’ home arena, when he rolled down his window to warn a woman and her child about oncoming traffic. Her response? “As soon as I said that, she looked at me – as she is wearing a No 4, green with the white outline Celtics jersey – and told me, ‘F**k you, you f**king [N-word]’,” Smart recalled.
“They cheer for you and you hear that right after,” Smart said. “It was more of a disappointment than really being hurt. I was like, ‘Damn, that s— really happens.’ … I play for the city of Boston, but it still happens.”
Throughout his life, Celtics’ Bill Russell, the winningest player in Boston history, kept his distance from the city where he became a legend, once describing the city as “a flea market of racism.”
Athletes across sports speak out against the city of Boston
In 2014, P.K. Subban, who played for the Montreal Canadiens at the time, received racist tweets after a game-winning goal against the Boston Bruins, according to Andscape.
A 2017 Globe article found that Boston was ranked by Black respondents as the least welcoming to people of color among eight major cities. Later that year, the Red Sox apologized to Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones after he was subjected to racist abuse by club fans.
New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia said Black baseball players expect racist taunts in Boston. “We know,” Sabathia said in 2017. “There’s 62 of us. We all know. When you go to Boston, expect it.”
The NBA’s all-time leading scorer (and counting), LeBron James, described Celtics fans as “racist as f**k” on his series, The Shop, last year. King James recalled being cussed at and having beer bottles tossed at him.
Golden State Warrior Draymond Green also said he and Stephen Curry were called the N-word by Celtics fans during last year’s NBA finals.
Boston Black Median Net Worth Was $8 in 2015
Long held racist beliefs have also been woven into the laws, costing generations of Black Bostonians an opportunity at financial freedom.
A 2015 study found the median net worth of white Bostonians was $247,500. In systemically racist contrast, Black Bostonians’ median net worth was a putrid $8.
In 1974, Bostonians violently resisted desegregation, particularly in South Boston, the city’s prominent Irish-Catholic neighborhood.
These protests led to the “busing crisis,” where school buses transporting Black children to desegregated schools were bombarded with eggs, bricks, and bottles.
Fenway Park is the epicenter of Boston’s racism
Fenway Park itself lied on 4 Yawkey Way, a street named in honor of Tom Yawkey, owner of the Boston Red Sox from 1933 until his death in 1976.
During his tenure, Yawkey earned a reputation for being one of the most racist figures in baseball even by the standards of the times. In 2018, The Red Sox changed “Yawkey Way” to “Jersey Street” in order to distance themselves from a hateful past of their own creation.
NPR reported The Sox front office was notorious for racism, even spewing the n-word, as many fans were reputed to do as well.
Yawkey’s beliefs were the main reason why the Red Sox were the last of the pre-expansion MLB clubs to integrate, according to The Guardian.
They did not have an African-American player on the major leave roster until calling up Pumpsie Green in 1959, over two years after Jackie Robinson retired.